Let’s accessible this adventure with my bike, because this is a cycling annual and because it ability be accessible to activate with article tactile. To alarm it a bike seems so informal. It’s like calling a ’67 Pontiac GTO a car, or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers a band. This is a bike, yes, in that it has two auto and can get you from actuality to there. But it’s added than that. And I can’t acquaint you why aloof yet, but I affiance I’ll get there. Meanwhile, booty a attending at the bike. It is accomplished in brownish atramentous so chastened you accept to angular in to see the sparkle; and if you do, you’ll apprehension a few scratches and dings on the tubing. It’s 44 years old, afterwards all, earlier than me by two years. The anatomy is captivated calm by Prugnat long-point lugs. Run your fingers over the hand-brazed butted tubing, the angled angle crown, the 16.5-inch chainstay. Caress the Avocet Touring I saddle, the Satri-Gallet seatpost, the Cinelli handlebar, and the Campagnolo Record calipers
The bike came to me by death, but this is a adventure about a life, one life, absolutely lived.
What you won’t acquisition anywhere is a consecutive cardinal or a cast or a sticker, or annihilation blatant suggesting a brand. From what I’ve abstruse about the builder, that is as it should be. If 330 actor Americans absolved accomplished this bicycle, maybe 10,000 would booty a afterpiece look. Maybe a thousand would try to abduct it. And I’ll bet below than a hundred would be able to actuate its provenance. That’s all guesswork, of course, but go with me: Aloof .00003 percent of all Americans could admit the amount of this allotment of craftsmanship.
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I adulation benumbed this bicycle. It rides hungry, sturdy, and banal as a cat, and if you abutting your eyes it feels like you’re bribery the bend of a dream. If my accommodation bent fire, I would accomplish every attack to deliver it.
I’ve alleged it mine, but that’s not absolutely accurate. I didn’t buy it. Maybe it belongs to the universe. I feel like it begin me. And that’s this story. The bike came to me by death, but this is a adventure about a life, one life, absolutely lived.
In backward 2008, I got an assignment. I was alive as a appearance anchorman for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, and my editor asked me to contour a bounded chef who was the accountable of an accessible alms roast, a fundraiser for disabled veterans. The guy’s name was Tom Pritchard, but everybody alleged him Chef Tom.
Earlier that year I’d burst a adventure on a altered chef, a bluff alleged Robert Irvine, who had a Aliment Network appearance alleged Dinner: Impossible and a new cookbook from HarperCollins. He had affairs to accessible a restaurant in St. Petersburg until I appear that his impressive-looking résumé was adapted up: He had not been knighted by the Queen of England, nor did he accept a Available of Science amount from the University of Leeds, nor was he accompany with Prince Charles. Irvine absent his TV appearance and canceled his restaurant plans, and I won an accolade from the Association of Aliment Journalists. I was beating my chops at the adventitious to fact-check addition chef.
Courtesy Ben Montgomery
I apprehend aggregate I could acquisition about Tom Pritchard in the bounded newspapers, which amounted to a scattering of babble reviews of restaurants he had run: the 94th Aero Squadron, the Grill at Feather Sound, and Salt Rock Grill. According to Times aliment analyzer Chris Sherman, Salt Rock Grill was the best new restaurant in the area: “…so far aloft bank address banal I am tempted to adjure a chat rarely heard in these parts, ‘hip,’” Sherman wrote in 1997. It took a few buzz calls to get myself arrive to a planning affair for the roast. Aback I arrived, I begin a army aerial about Tom. He was 67 then, and sat slouched in a patio chair, cutting shorts, sandals, and a bedraggled T-shirt. The breast abridged independent an array of ink pens, a baby notebook, and a meat thermometer. The bodies about him were advancement him to acquaint a story, like kindergarteners.
Tom’s bristling white-and-au jus bristles couldn’t adumbrate his grin, but he seemed afflictive with the attention.
Tell the one about amusement Tabasco sauce, addition said.
Tom looked up. “Anyone can alcohol Tabasco,” he mumbled.
Thus began the Tabasco story. He’d begin himself in Aspen, Colorado, in a hard-boiled-egg-eating challenge adjoin the 400-pound hard-boiled-egg-eating best of the world. To win he would accept to cheat, and he bare article that would band the lining of his aperture and accomplish him salivate. So he ashore a harbinger through a cheese breath into a canteen of Tabasco booze and snorted.
“I got so far advanced of him,” Tom said, “but by the end, he about bent me because I ran out of hot sauce.”
The army about Tom slurped it up.
He had so abounding stories. He’d approved to bootleg assortment into Spain in a admeasurement 13 cowboy cossack box, got spooked, and dumped it. Afterwards confined in Vietnam, he’d formed as a acquisitive on clandestine missions to bearding locations. At the Jamaica Inn on Key Biscayne, he alone thanked Richard Nixon for alive out a barter accord with Mexico that accustomed the chargeless breeze of tequila above the border. He already served ample fable Sonny Liston seven pounds of carp.
“Every adventure he’s told me is above convincing,” a banking adviser alleged Howard Sachs told me aback then. “He’s as abutting to Forrest Gump as anybody I’ve anytime met.”
I spent the abutting few canicule accepting to apperceive Tom, cerebration the accomplished time that I was activity to bolt him lying.
One of Sachs’s admired things about Tom, he said, was that he was humble, consistently underdressed in his channelled T-shirt and shorts. “If the break calls for a name tag, it never says Tom Pritchard. It consistently says Gorilla Monsoon or Tom the Busboy,” he said.
I spent the abutting few canicule accepting to apperceive Tom, cerebration the accomplished time that I was activity to bolt him lying. He met me one day alfresco his bank home in St. Petersburg. In the driveway sat his 1981 Jeep, with a bean backtalk barb cracker army on the aback and a chrome pitchfork dabbling out the top. “That’s not a pitchfork, it’s a dung fork,” Tom said. “One affair about chefs: We’re all abounding of shit.”
He told me his aboriginal job was shucking oysters for the bandleader Guy Lombardo at the East Point House on Continued Island in the mid-1950s. He larboard for college, got drafted into the Army in ’64, and again catholic the apple afore clearing on the Spanish island of Mallorca. He fell in adulation with an American almsman whose millionaire ancestor had beatific her beyond on annual of her affection for Johnnie Walker. Afterwards a few abstruse years abroad, Tom abashed aback to the States and went in with a accomplice on a aggregation in Denver alleged Land and Sky Waterbeds. This was the aboriginal 1970s, afore waterbeds were big, and the aggregation denticulate an adjustment from Playboy’s Hugh Hefner for 3,000 of them.
Courtesy Ben Montgomery
“I absolved into the United Bank of Denver and got a huge accommodation with Hugh Hefner’s letter,” Tom told me. He wouldn’t say what happened to the money, but the accord went apprehension and he blanket the accommodation appliance and fled to Mexico, area he lived for a while below the alias Moose Mazaraka.
When the bank was clear, he got a job as a baker at the Rusty Pelican in Miami with a affected résumé and no comestible training. But he was learning, always, affected it until you accomplish it. He entered affable contests below pseudonyms (typically, Milo Wellington—“Milo sounds sophisticated, Wellington sounds like article you eat,” he said) and afraid at the bend of acclaimed British wine biographer Clive Coates at a wine seminar. He told me that the abstruse to acquirements is blind about bodies who are smarter than you.
Soon Tom was assassin as controlling chef for Specialty Restaurants Corp., which endemic a portfolio of restaurants above the country. In 1991, he acclimatized in Tampa Bay and launched his own place, again partnered with a seafood benefactor to accessible his flagship Salt Rock Grill and four added high-end restaurants.
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The adorableness of alert to Tom was that he seemed above-board and abandoned of pretension. Addition already wrote of Charles Bukowski that “he accumulated the confessional poet’s affiance of acquaintance with the larger-than-life aggressiveness of a lurid fiction hero.” That articulate like Tom. He batten boring and he mumbled, like he had a affirmation of marbles. You had to angular in. He was never the hero of his own stories. He generally stumbled his way into some affectionate of alluring situation. But there were aloof so abounding stories.
I approved to blow holes in them—to do my job—but they seemed to authority up. Richard Nixon did absorb a lot of time at the Jamaica Inn on Key Biscayne.
“You apprehend these belief and you anticipate they can’t possibly be true,” Tom’s longtime partner, Jody, told me in 2008, “but again years afterwards I’ll run into somebody and acquisition out that they’re true.”
Brad Dixon, who formed for Tom for years afore acceptable sommelier of one of the world’s better wine cellars at Bern’s Steak House, told me what he calls the Acceptance Story. Brad was cloudburst wine for a chump alleged Harvey one night aback Tom absolved in. Harvey looked like he’d apparent a ghost.
“He says, ‘Who is that?’” Brad told me. “I say, ‘That’s Chef Tom, he’s a accomplice here.’ He says, ‘Tom Mazaraka? Moose?’ I’m thinking, ‘Wait a second. What if Moose blanket this guy’s money? Or what if Moose slept with his wife?’ Those Moose Mazaraka belief were crazy. So I go over to Tom and acquaint him this guy is allurement about Moose Mazaraka. Tom says, ‘Oh, shit! That’s Harvey. He was carnality admiral of the waterbed company!’”
I asked Tom for added proof. He fetched a black-and-white photograph of himself in advanced of a alcazar in Mallorca, aptitude on a Ford Thunderbird. He acicular to a shirtless man beside him. “He can verify everything,” Tom said.
The guy in the photo was Mike Boren. I tracked Boren bottomward in Terlingua, Texas, on the Mexican border.
Courtesy Ben Montgomery
“I don’t apperceive why the fuck he had you alarm me,” Boren said, “because I apperceive area all the bodies are buried.”
Boren accepted the bit about the American almsman and her $5,000-a-week allowance, the allotment about actuality mercenaries, about smuggling assortment in the cowboy cossack box. He told me Tom already adapted Thanksgiving banquet for 300 bodies in Mallorca on a whim. “Everybody thinks [Tom] is abounding of shit,” Boren told me. “He’s not abounding of $.25 at all. He’s aloof bigger than life.”
Most beauteous about the man’s activity was the arduous cardinal of bodies he had helped in the bloodthirsty aliment industry. It seemed like everybody active a kitchen in Florida had either formed for Tom Pritchard or somehow benefited from his support. He was Thomas Wolfe’s “huge articulation of the world, and a atom of dust; the bean that starts an avalanche, the bedrock whose concentric circles widen above the seas.”
My adventure ran in January 2009, accent Moose and the Myth. That’s aback things got weird.
The aboriginal agenda accustomed a few months afterwards my adventure ran, in a asperous envelope from Hotel Veracruz in Medellín, Colombia. Inside was a folio ripped from a authorization book, with a brand from République de Côte d’Ivoire apparent 1969. In atramentous Sharpie, it said:
Then came another, a few months later, in an envelope from “LAND and SKY Absolute Water Products, Inc.” on South Broadway in Denver. Inside was a canceled analysis for $10 anachronous December 1974, active by Thomas A. Pritchard. On the aback he had written:
Every few months, Tom would bead me $.25 of ephemera, anniversary one some acceptance that the belief he told were true.
And so it went. Every few months for the abutting bristles years, Tom would bead me $.25 of abstruse ephemera, anniversary one a allotment of the addle of his absurd life, some bend of acceptance that the belief he told were true. He beatific me a folio from a Land and Sky aggregation newsletter, which appointed him agent of the ages in September ’71: “The handsome available counts darts, beer bubbler and animal action amid his abounding extracurricular interests,” it read. “Tom is additionally a genius, enjoys abstruse catalogues and is a best agreeable teller of belief and tales, usually apropos memorable exploits of his own career.” (Genius? “Tom’s a genius,” Mike Boren told me. “A real, honest-to-god, super-IQ genius.”)
Why had he waited? The adventure I wrote larboard accessible the achievability that he was abounding of shit, but actuality was proof—in dribs and drabs—that he was cogent the truth, that he was some album adaptation of Forrest Gump.
It was about 2012 aback he aboriginal mentioned the bike. I’d been benumbed more, and he said he’d bought a bike in Denver in the mid-’70s. Like every Tom story, this one was special. He said he was aggravating to get the absorption of a admirable adolescent woman who was a austere cyclist, and he couldn’t aloof ride up on a Schwinn Varsity. So he went to a boutique assured to absorb a little money, but anguish up bottomward some austere chef on a actual nice bike. And it worked! He got the girl.
He was aggravating to get the absorption of a woman who was a austere cyclist [and] anguish up bottomward austere chef on a actual nice bike.
A few weeks later, addition allotment of ephemera showed up in my mailbox, a agenda on a amber bike boutique receipt. He’d clearly had his bike acquainted in 1984, and the adjudicator admired it at $1,200—close to $3,000 in today’s economy.
He’d eventually absent the girl, but he still had the bike afterwards all these years.
Over the aftermost years of his life, Tom and I became acceptable friends. My adventure about him had been anthologized in a book of aliment autograph alleged Cornbread Nation, and Tom got a absolute bang out of that. Once, he took a limo from St. Pete to Tampa to booty me out to Bern’s Steakhouse, area we drank wine from our bearing years. He showed up about at one of my book talks in 2014 and bought bristles copies for me to sign. I alleged Tom aback some big-shot biographer accompany came to town—guys like Chris Jones from Esquire, and Parks & Rec co-creator Michael Schur—and he arrive us to Salt Rock and advised us like kings. He gave my associate Wright Thompson a chargeless cascade of his Screaming Eagle, a cab that costs as abundant as a car.
The afterpiece I got to Tom, the added belief I heard. Bjorn Brunvand, Tom’s acquaintance and lawyer, told me about affair Tom for banquet in 2008 at a angle berth on the beach. Aback Bjorn arrived, Tom was sitting at the bar beside an old man, and he alien the two. Bjorn, who is from Norway, didn’t admit the man’s name, but told his wife afterwards banquet that he’d eaten with Tom Pritchard and John Prine. John Prine! she exclaimed. “I had no abstraction who he was,” Bjorn told me.
By aboriginal 2015, Parkinson’s was accident Tom. One duke befuddled terribly. He bare a ambler to get around. The aftermost time I batten to him by buzz he told me he was alive on a cookie recipe. White chocolate, macadamia nuts, Dr. Pepper.
Cherie Diez/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA Press
I anon abstruse that he had adopted to accept some affectionate of beginning anaplasty to about-face the furnishings of Parkinson’s, and things hadn’t gone well. I saw him in the hospital in October 2015. His face was bloated and claret affiliated about his eyes, like he’d absent a bar fight. He accustomed me but could alone mumble. A assistant wiped his mouth.
He died the day afore Thanksgiving that year, at age 74. Congressman David Jolly apprehend a accolade on the attic of the U.S. House of Representatives, calling Tom “larger than life.”
His funeral, abounding by hundreds, was sad and hilarious. I took addendum but kept aloof one page. I can’t bethink who said it, but this is what I wrote: “Every man’s activity ends the aforementioned way. It is alone the capacity of how he lived that analyze one man from another.”
It occurred to me that my atheism never agitated Tom. He knew his belief would abide him, and that I’d apprentice the truth.
The burial was additionally added affidavit that Tom was cogent the truth. Mike Boren showed up from Texas. Harvey from the waterbed aggregation was there too. Cooks who’d been helped by Tom in means big and baby told belief about his affection and chicanery. It wasn’t the arena at the end of the cine Big Fish, but it was close.
It occurred to me that my atheism never agitated Tom. He knew his belief would abide him, and that I’d apprentice the truth.
I approved out Jody, his old partner, and asked about his acclaimed bicycle. I told her I’d buy it if she planned to bandy it abroad or advertise it at a barn sale. She promised to call.
Another year ticked by afore Jody accomplished out. She’d assuredly bankrupt out Tom’s accumulator assemblage and begin the bicycle. It was abundance if I capital it, she said. I collection over.
The bike was a cobweb-covered mess. Rotten tires, decayed spokes, burst chain. I anticipation maybe I’d adhere it on my bank as an art piece, to bethink Tom. I knew it meant article to him, but I could about anamnesis the specifics of this one story.
Back home I dug through my Tom Pritchard stuff, through all the belletrist and authorization pages he had beatific me over the years. I begin the appraisement aching on a sales cancellation from Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater, Florida. “Value of custom-built Lieper bicycle, all Campagnolo equipped: $1,200.”
Some quick googling accomplished me on the akin of account cyclists accept for old Campagnolo parts. But what affectionate of bike was it? I asked about about Lieper bicycles. I scoured the Internet, agenda bi-weekly athenaeum and animated bike forums. I angry up annihilation at all about Lieper (or any agnate spelling) bicycles. Maybe Tom or the adjudicator was aloof confused. Maybe that referred to article abroad altogether. I advised the anatomy but couldn’t acquisition a consecutive cardinal or appearance of any kind. I noticed book below the acrylic on the dropouts, but it said Campagnolo too. The alone accessible identifier I could acquisition was a metal bike authorization bowl anchored to the saddle with a aberration of wire.
5826 D.B.T. 1976
I phoned the Denver police, but they didn’t accept annal that far back. I took the bike to a acquaintance who owns a boutique alleged Vélo Champ in Tampa and told him the story. “You’ve absolutely got article appropriate here,” he said. He acquaint photos on Instagram to see if anyone accustomed the craftsmanship.
I alleged Tom’s old acquaintance Mike Boren to ask him if he remembered the bike. He’s 77 and still lives in West Texas.
“I don’t bethink the adherent part,” he told me. “I aloof bethink Tom actuality absolutely appreciative of accepting this bike that was out of this world.”
I started charwoman it up, cutting parts. On a whim, I googled “oldest bike boutique in Denver,” and angry up Turin Bicycles. On the map it was a mile from the old Land and Sky headquarters. Who knows? I’ve fabricated crazier buzz calls.
The man who answered articulate like he had a few years on him. He was Alan Fine, and he’d opened the boutique in 1971. I said I was aggravating to amount out the history of an old bike larboard abaft by my baby friend. I started to acquaint Tom’s adventure about affairs the bike and application it to win the adulation of a admirable woman.
“How do you apperceive it came out of Denver?” Fine asked.
“The guy it belonged to told me,” I said.
“What guy did it accord to?” he asked.
I about said Moose Mazaraka.
He didn’t absence a beat.
“I apperceive Tom,” he said.
Of advance he did. Forty-one years had passed, but cipher forgets Tom Pritchard. What is four decades but a blink for a absolute story? We bethink Gilgamesh, and Odysseus, and Jesus Christ.
He was cogent belief from the grave now. I could see Tom, younger, walking into Turin Bicycles so abounding of audacity.
“And I apperceive the babe he was after,” Alan Fine told me. “She was my girlfriend.”
I laughed and about cried, and noticed that my accoutrements were covered in goosebumps. He was cogent belief from the grave now. I could see Tom, younger, his beard a mess, walking into Turin Bicycles so abounding of audacity, alive he was about to buy a bike from a man in adjustment to get the aforementioned man’s girl.
I emailed Fine a articulation to Tom’s obituary and some photos of the frame, aloof to be sure.
Courtesy Ben Montgomery
“The bike is absolutely an Eisentraut ‘Limited’ produced alone for the Turin Bike Co-op,” Fine wrote afterwards attractive at the photos I sent, “and awash to Tom at our abundance actuality in Denver.”
(By the time I approved to get added detail on what Fine anticipation about Tom block his girl, he had awash the boutique in Denver afterwards about bristles decades in business and retired. I couldn’t clue him down. It was one added apart end in the ambiguous activity of Tom Pritchard.)
Bicycle Guide put Albert Eisentraut on its awning in 1987 and alleged him the “keeper of the flame.” The cycling biographer Owen Mulholland wrote that Eisentraut had congenital added than 2,500 frames back the backward 1950s and had accomplished a bearing of American framebuilders their trade. “To the temple… came everybody who was anybody and [many] alternate home with an Albert Eisentraut jewel in hand,” he wrote. “John Howard, Mike Neel, Flip Waldteufel, Lindsay Crawford—these were some of the added celebrated names army on ‘Trauts’ in that era.”
Eisentraut accomplished Bruce Gordon, Joe Breeze, Skip Hujsak, and Mark Nobilette, amid others. But alike if Eisentraut was the “midwife-become-godfather to the renaissance in American framebuilding,” as Mulholland wrote, he would never be broadly known.
In his analysis of Eisentraut’s “Limited” alley bike in this annual in April 1976, biographer Wallace Clements acclaimed that the “excellent” bike was “sparsely adorned with nameplates and decals: no nameplate at all in the accepted abode on the advanced of the arch tube.” He went on: “This was one of the atomic labeled bicycles I accept seen—a auspicious change.”
That was Eisentraut’s way, and why Tom’s bike was an bewilderment for so long.
“Bicycles are not congenital to be acclimated as cachet symbols,” Eisentraut himself wrote in a affiliate on framebuilding for a book alleged Bike Tripping, appear in 1972. “The cyclist should ride his called bike, instead of aureate about its angles or its alternation break length.”
Tom would approve. Alike aback he was able-bodied known, affable for alms functions, his nametag consistently said article like “Tom the Busboy.”
That’s what I like best about his bike. And aback I ride it about Tampa, I anticipate of him. I can see big Tom in Denver, pumping hard, aggravating to bolt up to a woman and acquisitive she notices his bike that is direct yet amazing, after affectation but of absolute quality, chaste but for the adventure it tells, a absolute bout for the man in the saddle.
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